Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Manifesto-Driven Unthink Promises a Social Network Where Users Own Their Accounts

A lot of people might say they’re angry about Facebook’s mishandling of their online identity. But a new self-hyping social network called Unthink is hoping people will actually take action on their complaints and switch to a site that promises to treat them better.

Unthink, which this week started letting in users for its initial launch, is built around terms of service that are meant to be much friendlier to users than the standard we-own-your-content-into-perpetuity-and-can-change-at-any-time fare.

So far, the Tampa-based Unthink’s main offering to the public has been a set of press releases — “Facebook news: Secret rival preparing to UNTHINK Facebook” — and videos — “UNTHINK to Facebook and Google — It’s FU time” that rail against the abuses of Facebook as well as Google+. The tone is not unlike someone ranting in a town square to try to attract followers to some new religious sect.

Unthink isn’t the first to try this manifesto-driven approach to building a social network. Last year, Diaspora raised $200,000 from donors on Kickstarter to build a decentralized social network; more recently, Anybeat launched as a public community, promising it will never try to own users’ identities. Google says one of Google+’s standout features is that users can export their data — the team dedicated to that effort calls itself the Data Liberation Front.

So who is behind Unthink? CEO Natasha Dedis said, in a phone interview last week, “We are outsiders. We are not Silicon Valley. We are normal people.” Dedis added she was prompted to start her company after her young son asked to join Facebook and she read through the “exploitative” terms of service.

Dedis said she hired a team of 100 people in Florida, India and Ireland to build Unthink over the past three years, with $3 million in funding raised from investors, including DouglasBay Capital.

Dedis said Unthink users — who she prefers to call “owners” — will be able to get all the public, social and professional functionality they might want from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, within one site.

Unthink will also ask users to pay or to choose a brand to sponsor their activity to cover maintenance costs, so that it does not have to use traditional advertising to pay the bills.

Will hordes of people switch to Unthink? I doubt it. Building a thriving social network takes more than terms-of-service tweaks and a PR campaign. You also need a useful and interesting product, plus a critical mass of users, which is much easier said than done.

But you can judge for yourself. Here’s a screenshot of the Unthink product. And below that, from the piles of manifesto and legal stuff that Unthink sent over for my review, is a relatively plainly written explanation of what the company is trying to do.

UNTHINK differentiators:
• A new legal structure
• A new win-for-all business logic
• An all-in-one Suite for people
• An all-in-one Stage for brands
• Lifestyle Networking – a new way for people and brands to interact.

Unthink is a legal, financial and technological innovation. Unthink is an altogether
different approach to social media. It is an innovation that moves the market in a
completely new direction, exposing the exploitive nature of the existing paradigm
and those who insist on serving it.

Legal: Unthink features a new-media structure erected on a radically different legal
and financial framework that obligates the domain to serve only as facilitator and
recognizes ALL interested parties, redefining their roles, rights and responsibilities.
The UNTHINK Deed, Emancipation Covenants, and Privacy Policy are as
revolutionary for social media as the open source movement was for software
development. It upgrades USERS to OWNERS.

Financial: Unthink features a business model structured around a transparent and
win-for-all business logic, steering the market away from the opaque win-lose
Facebook model in which users are exploited for profit. Unthinkers are not asked to
show blind faith and sign up without knowing how the domain intends to make
money. People are guaranteed transparency in how makes money
and that UNTHINK will never seek to profit by exploiting them. No ads, not now, not
ever, will bother Suite owners, who are in addition guaranteed quiet enjoyment of
their Suites. The business model is as revolutionary for social media as AdWords
was for search engines.

Technological: The Suite and Stage are technological innovations that radically
redefine how people and brands use social media and how they interact.

Suite: People’s public, social, lifestyle and professional conversations are
integrated in their all-in-one social networking microsite called the Unthink
Suite. The Unthink Suite saves you time by integrating all the functionalities of
Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and much more. It also allows you to present
yourself appropriately and share only what you want. It is a universal tool that is
customizable to satisfy your individual preferences.

Inside your Public gadget there is a Stream that allows you to share with the
world. Relationships here are not reciprocal. You can follow people who interest
you and others can choose to follow you if they find you interesting. You can
easily organize people in clusters and share with them accordingly.

Inside your Social gadget there is a Stream that allows you to share with your
friends. Only your friends can see your Social Stream, participate in your social
conversations and view your Social Profile. Relationships here are reciprocal, so
both parties have to agree to become friends. You can easily organize your
friends in clusters for more granular sharing.

Inside your Professional gadget there is a Stream that allows you to share with
your professional connections. Only your connections can see your Professional

Stream, participate in your professional conversations and view your
Professional Profile. Relationships here are reciprocal, so both parties have to
agree to become connected. You can easily organize your connections in
clusters for more granular sharing. Your Professional gadget also makes it easy
for you to keep an eye on the jobs market by selecting employers, jobs channels
and the frequency of the updates you want to receive. If you are not a
professional yet, you can hide this gadget and replace it with a College or
School gadget that allows you to network with your academic community.

Inside your Lifestyle gadget there is a Stream that allows you to share with
people who make up your sphere of influence and with brands that interest you.
Here relationships can only be initiated by you. Brands cannot push information
to you or interrupt you with ads. Your Lifestyle Tree allows you to select which
brands you want to interact with, and to pull only the information you want when
you want it. Your anonymous lifestyle profile is a tool you can use to guide
brands to provide you with updates that are more tailored to your interests. Your
GreenBox allows you to discover new brands and be rewarded. Brands on
UNTHINK don’t have a license to intrude or interrupt you. They cannot spy or
collect information on you. They have to entice you to subscribe to their
channels by offering you rewards and by respecting you. The only way they will
ever be able to interact with you is by seeking to form a mutually beneficial
direct relationship with you. A relationship that you enter into of your own free
will, where you are in control of when, where, what about, and how you interact,
and are rewarded with every contact.

Stage: Brands can pursue all their goals from their social microsite called a
Stage. Though their all-in-one UNTHINK Stage, brands can get endorsed by
brand advocates, build win-win relationships with people whose lifestyles they
empower, keep up with other businesses, and connect with talent interested in
their jobs. Stages were designed with efficiency as a key consideration, to
enable brands to communicate with the world and build all the relationships they
need from one place.

Brands own their Stages and all their relationships, an increasingly important
issue as brand website traffic is shifting to their social media pages. Brands are
in control of their Stages and not subordinated to the social domain.

Brands are fully integrated into the community and are as much part of the
community as in the real world. They are no longer a social media afterthought.
UNTHINK puts an end to social brand segregation, giving brands an equal
opportunity to belong to the community by offering them a new way to interact
with people in a non-intrusive, mutually beneficial, rewarding way and all the
necessary tools to build meaningful relationships. It offers brands a way to
maximize their reach and virality, minimize acquisition cost per relationship,
mobilize people and drive sales in partnership with nature and people. Brands
are given powerful analytics to measure their performance and monitor their

Stages fulfill the core promise of direct engagement. Lifestyle networking is a
paradigm shift that transforms brands from intrusive advertisers on a social
network to genuine members of the community.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus